Anacardium - The Essential Homeopathic Features
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English: Marking-nut tree, Malacca bean
French: Anacarde, Anacardien, Anacarde a feuilles longues, Feve de Malac
German: Elephantenlaus, Malakka-nuss, Elephantem Laeusebaum, Anakardiem baum
Dutch: Anacardienboom, Hartjes
Natural order: Terebinthinaceae.
Family Jussieu [vegetable substance] - Pentandria digynia, L.
The name is derived from two Greek words, “ana” - without, and “cardium” - a heart, because the pulp of the fruit, instead of having the seed enclosed, has the nut growing out at the end of it. There was a discrepancy as to whether Anacardium was the nut of the Semecarpus anacardium, or the Marking-nut Tree, or the seed of the Avicenna tomentosa, or Malacca bean, but as Hahnemann described the nut, it leaves no doubt that he was talking about the Semecarpus anacardium.
THE ESSENTIAL FEATURES
The concept of inner conflict or of mental schism is central to Anacardium. There is a rather specific dimension to the conflict; that is, it focuses on the desire of the individual to prove himself to others of importance to him and to the world. The conflict arises because, despite this determined will to prove himself, the person suffers from a profound inferiority complex.
The Inner Conflict
Anacardium is reluctant to admit his feelings of inadequacy, and he attempts to subjugate his lack of confidence with his will to succeed. The stress provoked by this effort creates an extremely painful conflict, a conflict resulting in great suffering for the affected individual. For example, a man is treated somewhat badly by his superior at work. He suffers hurt feelings as a consequence and begins to feel ill at ease while on the job. As the conflict with the superior continues, it eventually assumes the character of an internal conflict in which the employee feels torn between quitting his job and remaining in order to prove his worth. While his rational mind dictates that he leave, another part implores him, "No. You must not leave. You will stay, suffer if need be, and prove that your superior is wrong. You are really capable, really good. You can prove yourself!" Such a conflict can persist for a very long time with dire consequences for the health of the individual.
Another characteristic example: a husband is at times prone to criticize his wife; he treats her a bit badly or unjustly. This maltreatment is magnified enormously within an Anacardium individual. She readily adopts deep feelings of inferiority, but at the same time she decides to prove herself. She embarks upon a program of self-improvement. She begins attending seminars, studying, etc. However, to the Anacardium patient, her husband will continue to seem to constantly belittle her. Subsequently she is disheartened and an inner conflict arises. She tells herself, "I must leave him. I must separate from him and get a divorce. I'm going mad; this situation is intolerable." But at the same time she cannot leave; she continues to want to prove herself, to eradicate her sense of inadequacy. She continues in this conflicted state without any peace of mind until she finally has a nervous breakdown, goes into a depressed state, and eventually wants to commit suicide by shooting herself or jumping from a high place.
The Feeling of Inferiority/The Lack of Self-Confidence
Together with the feeling of inferiority, there is a great lack of self-confidence. This is expressed in different ways. A student knows that he has studied his subject well and that he knows it, yet the thought comes that he will fail in his examinations. The anxiety that develops is so great that he actually fails his examinations. His mind is blocked and there is almost a hysterical reaction with flushes of heat, an upset stomach, heaviness in the whole head, etc. He knows that he is worthy, and, after speaking with his teachers or parents, for a moment he is further persuaded that he is worthy, but after a while the thoughts return and torment him. A feeling of cowardice develops.
In another example one may see a doctor, a microbiologist, who has a responsible post in a hospital and in whom everybody places a lot of trust, yet every morning on going to the hospital he has the thought that he is not capable of this position, that he will make a mistake and that he will be ridiculed by his colleagues. He goes to the hospital expecting that at any moment he will make a mistake, and, when in this state, his mental clarity sometimes does suffer lapses, causing him to make mistakes, thus confirming and strengthening his belief. Eventually his life becomes unbearable; he withdraws from others, broods, becomes morose and depressed. The interesting thing is that he may say that he logically knows that he is capable and that he knows his subject well, but thoughts centering on his lack of self-confidence persist and overwhelm him.
The student of homeopathy has to understand that in the above case the pathology is so deep and painful for the individual that everything else is of minor importance. It is the intensity of this symptom and this symptom alone that will lead us to prescribe Anacardium, ignoring all other symptoms. In such cases one may see no aggression or cruelty; the organism is occupied solely with this pathology on a very deep level.
The lack of self-confidence can be expressed in different ways in different stages of the pathology of Anacardium when this is not the main symptom. These patients will not say, "I have a lack of self-confidence," but will provide statements which are indicative of an underlying insecurity or inferiority complex. Some such expressions might be:
Very timid; she felt that everyone was looking at her when she walked in the street.
"I cannot express myself."
She feels secure in her own home, but when alone in her room, she fears that someone will enter and kill her. She fears cars in the street.
He does not want to communicate with new acquaintances, having an inimical attitude towards everyone.
As stated previously, Anacardium is the most prominent remedy for lack of self-confidence, the other major remedy being Baryta carbonica. Here it is important to comment that the symptom which is depicted with the highest degree in the Repertory does not always have to be depicted to such a degree in the individual. In both of these remedies an inferiority complex will be apparent; on comparison, however, they are completely different. Baryta carbonica will manifest an inferiority complex from the very beginning of life, childhood, to the end of life. Baryta carbonica does not want to become a grown-up with responsibilities; she feels that it is too much for her and wants to remain protected, like a child. She feels that she cannot undertake and accomplish anything. Baryta carbonica very frequently corresponds to those elderly people who simultaneously lose their mental powers and their self-confidence. Baryta carbonica is also very soft, timid, and very irresolute. Anacardium also has great irresolution, but these people are not soft; they are hard people. There is a hardness inside them which prevents their yielding to their suffering, prevents their giving in to the urge to escape a conflict-ridden situation. They will tell of tremendous suffering; e.g., that their husband hits them or curses at them, etc., but they will endure it with the intention of proving themselves. Their inferiority complex prevents them from seeking a better situation, from establishing a new relationship, new job, etc.. Anacardium persons want to prove themselves. One can see a somewhat similar dynamic when observing Anacardium persons arguing. They are prone to foolishly prolong a losing argument despite their obviously weak, uninformed position. This kernel of hardness expands with time to affect the entire organism. These people become increasingly hard in order to cope with their life circumstances. To others they appear strong, uncompromising, unyielding and hard. Eventually the hardness can reach the point of cruelty.
The Misanthropic Tendency
When in this weak state in which they completely lack confidence, they have no feelings of love or warmth. They feel isolated and unprotected and may need somebody to be with them all the time for support, yet at the same time they have an aversion to being with people, especially strangers: aversion to company. Anacardium individuals can become real misanthropes, with a fear of associating with others. Eventually they will reach a stage of paranoia where they suspect everybody and feel that they are being followed, pursued by others who want to do them harm.
The Hardness and Cruelty
Anacardium is also one of the first remedies to consider for cruelty. These people can be extremely cruel to both people and animals. They are capable of torturing animals and can be indifferent to the torture of humans; they may even enjoy seeing others suffer violence. It is as if they are devoid of all ethical feelings of morality. Of course, there is a spectrum of degrees of hardness in Anacardium that ranges all the way up to people who are capable of inflicting torture; not all Anacardium patients manifest cruelty, but the element of hardness is quite common.
Most of these people possess a deep feeling of inferiority and inadequacy that they are unable to escape. Such a sense of inferiority may be appeased by the feeling of power that can be bestowed upon one by an authority; for this reason, one might expect that many of the cruel and sadistic interrogators working for repressive political regimes may be sick people needing Anacardium as their constitutional remedy. Working in such a capacity, their urge to subjugate others and to torture can be fully satisfied. They are deprived people without morals, but with malice, who suddenly find an outlet to express their maliciousness. It is a perverted state. It is intriguing that during the interview these people do not appear capable of cruelty; they seem soft and nice. One might even be inclined to confuse them with Staphysagria during the first interview. However, when they are given authority by another, the cruelty can emerge. Again, the violence of Anacardium dwells in the interior of these people; externally they appear quite placid. Sometimes the hardness gives way to a complete lack of self-confidence, and a person who was considered strong, hard or even cruel completely loses these characteristics and becomes a "little nothing," with no confidence at all and a desire for encouragement and approval at all times.
The Double Will
There are stages in the development of the Anacardium image. All of the symptomatology of this remedy is not apparent from the outset. For instance, the familiar personified double wills of Anacardium - an angel sitting on his right shoulder telling the patient to do one thing and a demon on the other telling him to do exactly the opposite - arise only in the late stages of pathology, especially with the begining of schizophrenia. It is an hallucination. This familiar theme, expressed in the above manner, which appears in the texts will not be encountered in the vast majority of Anacardium patients. The conflict will instead more often manifest itself in different ways and to varying degrees with such expressions as:
"I hate my sister and I love her at the same time." "I am two persons; one criticizes people and the other justifies them." "There is a conflict inside me between the love I have and the feelings of hate that were left inside me after a certain period in my life." She fears that she might hurt herself or others, something that she does not want. "I have become wild. I cannot tolerate anything. I swear badly over trite things, or say very bitter things that hurt others quite deeply." In a quarrel she had with her brother she wanted to harm him. She grasped a knife to throw at him, but at the same time she grabbed the knife she was thinking, " I will harm him and I will undergo the consequences. I shall hurt him and punish myself afterwards." "I feel as if my mind is separated from my body." Disposition to laugh at serious things while he may remain serious when he should laugh. He laughed during his father's funeral; he makes jokes when everybody else may be in tears from a scene in the street or cinema.
All these examples portray, to varying degress, the same idea, the idea of a schism or a strong internal conflict.
Anxiety about the Future
In the first stages of the development of pathology, the suffering provokes an anxiety about the future. They experience a constant sense of insecurity. They anticipate that small problems are going to expand into major ones. This anxiety, suffering and fatigue generated by perpetual inner conflict lead to an eventual compromise of mental vitality. They start suspecting that everything will go wrong and become suspicious of everything around them.
Memory loss is another characteristic of Anacardium. Initially the effect on memory is forgetfulness. They will be unable to recall what they have read. The mind is rendered empty from the effort made in trying to prove themselves. It resembles a form of mental paralysis.
There is one specific arena of life which is especially prone to evoke the Anacardium picture - school, especially around the time of examinations. A student, who has perhaps suffered the indignity of having been criticized by his teacher, will be determined to prove himself by excelling at his examinations. In the midst of his studying he will be overcome by a sudden profound loss of confidence. He will then feel unable to take the examination. His mind has become a blank; he is unable to remember what he has studied. There are other remedies that can similarly correspond to pre-examination difficulties and which, by way of contrast, we will briefly describe. Again, that which distinguishes Anacardium is the urge to be first - to prove oneself - in the face of perceived criticism; e.g., "My teachers do not acknowledge my abilities."
Gelsemium will present an entirely different picture. Those requiring Gelsemium will experience intense fear at the thought of appearing for an examination; a feeling of paralysis and trembling often accompanies this anticipatory fear. Unlike Anacardium, they encounter no difficulty while studying; they have the stamina to study, and they do not suffer a similar memory loss. With Gelsemium the focal point of their difficulty is imagining themselves before the examiner, especially for an oral examination; that image paralyzes them with fear. They will say, "No, I cannot do it. It is better that I do not go. I give up." Gelsemium will want to give up; they are softer, far less determined than Anacardium. The fear in Gelsemium is an expression of cowardliness.
The case of a man, a student of economics in England, illustrates the Gelsemium dilemma. He was the son of a very rich man. When initially seen, he was almost at the point of quitting school. He was quite lazy and was unable to pass his examinations because he could not muster the initiative to study. He spent his time living a carefree life, drivng expensive cars, entertaining girlfriends, etc. He felt that he could not concentrate, that his mind wandered. He wanted to succeed in school, wanted to study, but he was just too lazy. One dose of Sulphur greatly affected him. He was subsequently able to study and passed one examination after another... until he arrived at the final stage of his school program. The school was quite difficult, very demanding. The professor of his final course had already failed him three times. He became afraid of this teacher. He phoned his parents, telling them, "I have studied the subject completely. I know it very well, but I am not going to take the examination. I cannot. " The parents phoned me asking what they could do. This was quite a different situation from before; there was no longer the laziness of Sulphur, but a lack of courage to appear in front of the teacher. A repetition of Sulphur, here, would do more harm than good. This was a Gelsemium situation. [The practicioner has to be aware of such subtle differences if he wishes to prescribe correctly.] I recommended that he take a dose of Gelsemium 1M the day before the examination. He did so, appeared for the examination and did very well.
Picric acid will also be frequently indicated for pre-examination difficulties. The causation in Picric acid is overexertion and fatigue of the mind. These are people who have studied very diligently for a long time and who, as a consequence, have overexerted themselves. They do not experience the conflict of Anacardium nor the cowardliness of Gelsemium, but rather predominantly suffer from a tiredness of the mind. They may say, "I am so tired. I feel as if I have been thinking for ages." The feeling of mental fatigue is unrelenting and will induce them to want to quit and forego the exam. In this state even five minutes of studying will be exhausting.
One must exercise caution in discriminating between these remedies for they may all complain that they are exhausted. Therefore, one must look at the case deeply in order to ascertain the underlying reality. In the Anacardium case there will most probably be an underlying conflict, a strong desire to succeed, and a subsequent sudden loss of memory. Later, as the case advances into the next stage of development, peevishness, irritability, and violence may appear. The pathology develops progressively; it originates predominantly as anxiety and insecurity; later the aspects of the inferiority complex, of cruelty and the double will become more prominent.
In the second stage of development the memory deteriorates even further. Their memory loss may become so extensive that they begin to fear the loss of their sanity. This is not a fear of insanity as such, but rather, because of their profound decline in memory, a fear that their health is going to take an ominous turn for the worse, that something very bad is going to happen. They suddenly realize that they are unable to remember anything, even from one minute to the next. Some will describe it as if "someone or something is holding my brain," not allowing it to work. The mind becomes feeble; he feels as if he is in a dream and does not have a direct perception of reality. The mind feels sluggish and dull. It is a state bordering on imbecility.
It is important again to emphasize that loss of memory is a very important characteristic of Anacardium, and, as stated, this memory loss is precipitated by the suffering produced by the anxieties and insecurities. A businessman whose business has been doing quite well suddenly begins to encounter one problem after another. He becomes anxious and subsequently notes that he can no longer remember anything. He has to make lists of things to remember. This symptom evolution can occur within a span of six months to a year in a person only thirty years of age. There is forgetfulness in the morning, especially on waking.
The Irritability and Violence
The irritability of Anacardium arises as these people begin to lose control of themselves. The constant suffering generated by their inner conflict, their struggle with their sense of inferiority, gradually erodes their control, allowing irritability and violence to surface. They may break all the things around them in a quarrel if they cannot harm the person involved. The irritability and the feeling of inferiority are connected; for instance, these people are liable to misinterpret someone else's behavior as an intended slight against them and react to it with irritation. Someone enters a room with flowers, for example, and the Anacardium woman is likely to respond, "Oh, you're bringing flowers for your daughter." In fact, the flowers may be for her, but her first reaction is to assume that the gesture is intended as an offense. Her feelings of inferiority do not allow her to accept that someone is willing to care for her, or be nice to her, or show her love and affection.
At this stage in the pathological development of Anacardium these people have no belief in love; they believe in brutal force. Anacardium patients who are quite introverted and capable of introspection will describe themselves in the following manner, "I have lost my control. I really want to do harm. I don't care about anything any more." They will report these symptoms as if they are not natural, integral aspects of themselves, but as something apart. The more assertive Anacardium patients are unable to take the least offense without rapidly flying into a temper. One of the initial expressions of their irritability is a great tendency to swear. This tendency may take place in a person who never before even thought of swearing. For instance, it may happen that after a shock a headache develops, and with it there arises this peculiar tendency.
Anacardium is one of the main remedies for those who have an irresistible desire to curse (Nitric acid, Hyoscyamus, Nux vomica). Subsequently, if the disturbance is left to develop, an increasing aggressive urge may appear, evoking more hostile actions; teenagers, for instance, may become juvenile delinquents, committing mischievous, malicious acts such as slashing tires, hitting people with chains, etc. They may join marauding gangs of hooligans. Some Anacardium patients may say that they experience violent thoughts only (e.g., shooting or stabbing people), without ever reaching the point of actually commiting violence.
Initially the natural feelings of tenderness, love, and sympathy diminish, leaving behind a dullness, blankness and hardness of emotions and thoughts. This torpor of the emotions occurs as a consequence of the suffering previously described, and this emotional void allows for the emergence of cruelty. After constant shocks, disappointments and hardships, they become insensitive, their emotions stilled, and they find that their stagnant emotions can only be, in a sense, revived by performing cruel actions. Their cruelty can almost be a source of joyfulness for them. The lack of emotional liveliness, the hardness represents significant pathology. It can be likened to a hard tumor - a tumor of the emotional body.
Some may see a similarity between the emotional inertia of Anacardium and that of Sepia. Sepia, however, will never enjoy doing harm. They will say, "I have no emotions, and I don't care." Sometimes they may become so irritable that they hit their children, but as soon as they do so they will suffer remorse and feel emotionally exhausted. This state is quite different from that of Anacardium. Another similarity is that in Anacardium, once the emotions have become blunted and hardened, there is a lowering of sexual interest which can develop into an aversion to sex.
Cruel Anacardium people who harbor malicious feelings toward the world can eventually develop paranoia. They will begin to believe that everyone is their enemy, that they are pursued by enemies. They are afraid of everybody, even those who may approach to hug them, and become suspicious of everything. As they progress further, they may enter a delusional state in which they feel as if they are living in a dream. Reality and dreams intermingle as their confusion increases. It is at this point that they will say, "I have an angel on the right who says to do the correct thing and a demon on the left who says to do the wrong thing. Someone is telling me to do one thing, and someone else is telling me to do the opposite." This delusion is characteristic of a patient who is approaching the final stage of Anacardium. As we have noted, not all Anacardium patients will express such a division in this way nor in the way it is expressed in the texts, but there is a similar idea underlying their symptomatology. The irresolution, the hesitation, and the lack of confidence are manifestations of that theme. The constant second guessing about a course of action, the questioning of one's capabilities, etc. creates a split that progressively enlarges until a schizophrenic condition may develop. Finally there is the appearance of fixed ideas involving the belief that they are double, that they have a demonic half. They see devils and angels, etc., the main idea being that of a schism.
The Religious Aspect
On examining the lives of most Anacardium patients one would not be inclined to identify them as religious people. On the contrary, they are people who believe in human power. As the pathology progresses, however, there is a tendency to develop a religious turn of mind. This attitude, though, is not one that is motivated by a true religious spirit. These are people who have engaged in much cruelty, who did not care about others; they have lived a life of hardness and eventually reach a point where they ask themselves, "Have I done right or wrong?" They become afraid of God and of angels; they fear the consequences of their past actions and become preoccupied with their salvation. Thus, we can see how these people, who had previously exhibited cruelty, hardness and violence as part of their sickness, now take on a religious bent. It is pathology, not spiritual maturity.
There may be some tendency to confuse Anacardium with Lycopodium. There are several distinguishing points. Lycopodium will not want to assume responsibility; they will try to shun it. Even their family can become a burden, and they will contemplate deserting them. Anacardium, on the other hand, will attempt to undertake responsibilities to an extreme degree in an effort to prove themselves. These two attitudes are wholly dissimilar. Lycopodium persons are not cruel; they are cowardly. They have anxiety about their health and anxiety about seeing blood. Anacardium could well enjoy seeing blood. Blood and violence stimulate them; their stilled emotions are aroused by violence. Otherwise, in the later stages, they are incapable of the more usual forms of emotional arousal. They have experienced a lot of suffering, and, as a consequence, their emotions have become blunted. This scenario is unlike Lycopodium. Lycopodium people are selfish; they like to enjoy themselves. They are often among those who, when attending seminars, conferences, and the like, will show no restraint. They will be eager to establish a licentious relationship with any woman to whom they are attracted. Their pleasure is a priority. This is an aspect of Lycopodium that serves to illustrate the significant differences between the two remedies.
An important point to emphasize in the recognition of Anacardium patients is that in any given patient there is usually a preponderance of one of the following pathological states - either the inferiority complex, the cruelty or the double will. Patients should exhibit evidence of at least one of these qualities to justify the prescription of Anacardium on the basis of psychological symptoms alone.